1st A/E Unlimited, Sailing as C/E Limited

I have received my 1st Assistant Engineers License sailing on a vessel that has 10,000+HP. My current sea service letter lists me as sailing as ‘Chief Limited’, can I use these days towards my Chiefs Unlimited License?

Looking at the requirements for the upgrade, I meet everything with the exception of sailing as a 1st A/E. I am currently sailing as a Chief Engineer on a vessel with more than 10,000 HP, but less than 1,600 GRT.

Will the Coast Guard accept this time towards my unlimited license, as I am sailing at a higher capacity?

Do you hold Chief Engineer-Limited? I don’t think 1st AE authorizes sailing as Chief Engineer on a vessel over 200 GRT. See 46 CFR 15.915. See also 46 CFR 15.820.

I’m curious about this as well.

I recall this coming up a few years ago. About a 1AE Unlimited sailing Chief on a 500 ton, 4000hp UIFV. We couldn’t get a straight answer about whether 1AE covered Chief UIFV or not. STCW wasn’t an issue since FVs are exempt. Obviously, a 1AE was much better qualified than the typical Chief UIFV or DDE.

The OP has a chief limited (oceans, 1600 grt) and a 1st assistant unlimited. His question was in regards to the checklist for qualifying for unlimited chief. The checklist specifies time served as 1st assistant or a calculation based on sailing as a 2nd or 3rd. The question is if there is any other way to qualify sailing on his ‘limited’ chief license to upgrade to unlimited chief, or does he have to find an assistant job.

It reads like the letter and spirit of the reg requires time served as a 1st on a vessel that requires a 1st. Time playing chief on a one man band boat hardly prepares one for the duties of chief or even first on an unlimited vessel with an engine gang.

Maybe i’m wrong, but that sounds like you are generalizing limited chiefs. Do you think most are all tug deckineers?

To confirm, I do have a Chief Limited license. The vessel I sail on is less than 1600 GRT, but more than 10,000 HP.
I want to know if the USCG would accept my capacity as a Chief Limited on this vessel, because it exceeds the Horsepower Requirements for unlimited, would count towards my license in place of 1st AE time.

The question is, are you worthy? If you don’t have at least 3 officers and 4 ratings underneath you. Its questionable.

Sorry, can’t help having some sarcasm. Hopefully someone with seemingly unbiased insight like jdcavo will weigh in.

Haha, I understand. Sarcasm and being just plain rude are two different things.
I have 3 officers, and 3 QMEDs that work directly for me.
It’s frustrating, you know. I was able to get the job because of being less than 1600 get, but can’t get the upgrade even though I meet the horsepower requirements. The unlimited license says nothing about tonnage requirements in the sailing days required.

I’d submit an application for CE Unlimited and see what happens.

Not generalizing at all, the reg states “360 days of service as an 1st Assistant Engineer, OR 360 days of service while holding a MMC as 1st A/E, of which A minimum of 180 days must have been as first assistant engineer,”

That means the manning requires a first assistant and the applicant must jump through all the hoops and climb the experience and learning curves of working as a first, not just playing chief on a little boat.

Am I biased? Yes, because every day I see what happens when someone who has no time or experience working under the supervision of an experienced 1st or chief becomes the chief, it is a clusterf–k for everyone involved. Just look at the MCA yachting license scheme for an example of how someone can go from car mechanic to chief without ever having spent a day of OJT or supervised training at sea. It’s not just a horsepower thing.

Apparently there are first jobs going open book right now so if you want the ticket, spend the time doing the job instead of looking for loopholes.

I don’t think the OP is looking for a loophole. Not sure what he is sailing on, but it must be a vessel under 1600 grt and he is not the sole engineer on board, he said he has a few officers and ratings under him. Doesn’t sound like he is ‘playing chief on a little boat’ at all. Size is relative to a certain extent. There are plenty of large vessels under 1600 grt.

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This is addressed in Ch 12 C.6 of the Marine Safety Manual:
Service As Chief Or Assistant Engineer (Limited) Or DDE.
Service as chief engineer (limited), assistant engineer (limited) or DDE, may be credited
as third or second assistant engineer service (depending on the license held). Only service
as an actual first assistant engineer can satisfy the first assistant engineer requirements for
advancement to unlimited chief engineer.

46 CFR 10.107 (b) defines First Engineer as … First assistant engineer means the engineer officer next in rank to the chief engineer and upon whom the responsibility for the mechanical propulsion and the operation and maintenance of the mechanical and electrical installations of the vessel will fall in the event of the incapacity of the chief engineer.

Personally I don’t see where tonnage should matter for engineer licenses except as an overly simplistic way to try to capture the complexity of the engine room machinery. I have been in smaller unlimited ships that were not much different than an ATB and not even a large one. So if you weld the barge to the boat you suddenly have an unlimited ship so suddenly your engineers are no longer qualified? Seems dumb to me.


1st engineer “service” was discussed a while ago on another thread. But lets go by exact wording I quoted above and I will conclude this:

Working as a chief-limited will only count as 2nd or 3rd A/E service (according to MSM, not a CFR). But, CFR says a 1a/e is the engineer directly below the chief engineer (provided his discharge says first).

So, the chief-limited can only get 2nd or 3rd A/E credit…but the “1st A/E” that is working under the chief-limited can get 1st a/e credit! HAHAHAHAH, great system!

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My guess is that he’s on a very large ore carrying ATB on the lakes. It sounds like he just needs to step back and sail 1AE on this same ATB to get chief unlimited. A really stupid USCG rule.

It also sounds like he might get 6 months of 2nd or 3rd credit toward chief unlimited by sailing as chief on this ATB.

Guys get unlimited chief and master sailing on oil rigs, dredges, construction barges, OSVs and small very old ships that just happen to be over 1600 tons. The entire licensing system very poorly structured and applied.

Today, unlimited probably ought to mean over 40,000 tons and over 20,000hp.

However, in many countries, small vessel time counts toward an unlimited license. That seems to work.

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